8/28/14

Google Authorship is Over - Now You Need to Know About the Google Knowledge Vault

Big news out of Google today -- they're ending Google Authorship.

Image:  Peggy Webber in The Screaming Skull (1958)
If you want details, go read all about it from Google's John Mueller or  Eric Enge (Search Engine Land) or Marc Traphagen (Google+ post).

Now, don't panic.  This isn't all that big of a deal to you.

What Does the End of Google Authorship Mean to You? Not That Much, Really


It means that your photo isn't going to be appearing in Google Search Results any longer -- but you already knew that, right?  Google nixed the pix a couple of weeks ago.

It doesn't mean that your content doesn't count, or that it's going to have a negative impact on what you have written and published on your blog or web site.  (Google testing per Mueller shows little if any impact on traffic to sites, for instance.)


Google Still Loves Schema 


Schema -- e.g., the "article" coding for In Depth Articles and the "publishing" coding for Publishers -- that's still alive and well.  It's really just your byline that gets hit; that coding for "author" that Google isn't that interested in following right now.   From Mueller today:
Going forward, we're strongly committed to continuing and expanding our support of structured markup (such as schema.org). This markup helps all search engines better understand the content and context of pages on the web, and we'll continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.
And why is that?  What nixed the "author" markup?  From the stuff that I've read this afternoon on Google, among other things is the fact that not that many people search for what someone has written -- they're looking for content by subject matter most of the time.


Searching for Subject Matter - Not Much Name Dropping


Don't you find that true?

I mean, I search for "Peggy Noonan" because I love how she writes -- but how many writers do you search for in Google, just to read what they've written?  Aren't you searching for subject matter too, anything from "Emmy winners" to "slow cooker chili recipe"?


Bottom Line Regarding Google Search and Google Authorship


Here's what I'm concluding today from Mueller, Enge and Traphagen, which is important: Authorship may be back in the future, but the important thing to recognize is Google is working hard toward "semantic search" overall.

If you want to know the future, learn more about the Google Knowledge Vault.


What is the Knowledge Vault?


Google's building a huge (HUGE) database of information for all of us to use.  And use efficiently.  It's called the "Knowledge Vault."

Google wants to be the best search engine out there -- to serve you; to keep you away from Bing and its other competitors.  To do that, this enormous, mind-blowing amount of information that it is compiling in its Knowledge Vault will have to bring stuff to you that you want most in your search results.

From New Scientist, this explanation of the Knowledge Vault:

It promises to let Google answer questions like an oracle rather than a search engine, and even to turn a new lens on human history.
Knowledge Vault is a type of "knowledge base" – a system that stores information so that machines as well as people can read it. Where a database deals with numbers, a knowledge base deals with facts. When you type "Where was Madonna born" into Google, for example, the place given is pulled from Google's existing knowledge base.

This existing base, called Knowledge Graph, relies on crowdsourcing to expand its information. But the firm noticed that growth was stalling; humans could only take it so far.
So Google decided it needed to automate the process. It started building the Vault by using an algorithm to automatically pull in information from all over the web, using machine learning to turn the raw data into usable pieces of knowledge.

Semantic Search is the Next Step


So, Google is working hard to evolve its service to make things even better for all of us.  This will be "semantic search" and the importance of quality content and good research will be even more important to blogs and web sites.

Beginning this year with Hummingbird, Google is moving past keywords and into "conversations" because Google has the ability now to comprehend and understand content (and searches) better.

Part of Google's success will involve the ability to discern reputable, trustworthy authors and experts so their work can rank higher in search results.  Google will want this as opposed to reliance solely upon "human actions such as markup," as described by Traphagen and Enge:
As Google moves forward in its commitment to semantic search it has to develop ways to identify entities such as authors with a high degree of confidence apart from human actions such as markup. Recent announcements about Google’s Knowledge Vault project would seem to reinforce that Google is moving steadily in that direction. So this may be how it approaches detection.


Bottom Line:  Keep Writing Great Content for Your Intended Reader


So, don't worry about this Author Ranking business, just keep writing great content.  Target your intended reader.  Support your work with links that you know are reputable and will stand the test of time (a NYT link will be there, a local blog is iffy).

And don't worry that your smiling face and your byline aren't being monitored right now.  You're fine.

8/22/14

Texas Law Firm Sues Client Over Negative Online Review at Yelp.Com

 In June, a Texas law firm did what so many lawyers these days dream about: they sued the author of a negative online review for defamation. 

Gunfight: Image, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain


Austin’s Grissom and Thompson has filed a civil lawsuit against their former client, a man named Joseph Browning, over a review he published online at Yelp.com, alleging that the law firm is the victim of defamation because the online review was "blatantly false" and had no basis in fact.

You can read the Texas law firm defamation petition here.

The full text of the negative online review appears as an appendix to the pleading.

The Online Review That Fueled the Law Firm’s Defamation Lawsuit 

The negative review was published not long after Mr. Browning was sued by the law firm for not paying his legal fees. In part, Mr. Browning wrote that not only did the law firm miss deadlines, but that the lawyers had no strategy and "couldn't even get the basic facts of the case straight after burning through 20 hours of billable time." 

He concluded his Yelp review with this zinger: "They will not defend you. They will hurt you. This is their motive. That is their intent." 

Mind you, Grissom and Thompson already obtained a judgment against Joseph Browning over unpaid attorneys fees and totaling around $4000. I have not read of any malpractice case against them, and the ABA coverage reports that Mr. Browning did not mount a defense to their case for fees.

This defamation claim is not a part of a fee fight.  It is an independent lawsuit.

The lawyers, speaking through their lawyer to the ABA Journal, say they may never collect on that judgment, and they may never see any money from their defamation (libel, libel per se) claim, but they're moving forward on principle.

Will This Law Firm’s Lawsuit Encourage Other Attorneys to File Defamation Claims Over Negative Online Reviews? 

Today, so many lawyers – particularly those practicing criminal defense or family law – are faced with false or malicious negative online reviews.

 It’s offensive to the attorneys, it can be maddening.  And there's the real worry that a negative online review can hurt a law firm's business reputation.

Will attorneys follow in the steps of Grissom and Thompson and start filing lawsuits against the authors of these bad online reviews?

It's a good question.

Personally, those lawyers I know who have dealt with a negative online review have had a knee-jerk reaction of filing a lawsuit, but have ultimately decided not to do so. They've relied on their numerous positive reviews in place on the web, as well as their lawyers' personal reputations and their history of case results to balance against the negative review.

And they’ve crossed their fingers that their clients and future clients will a malcontent when they see one. It’s a sticky situation, being a lawyer and having to deal with an online review these days. It’s not like anyone monitors these reviews before they are published (Yelp argues this isn’t their job).

Maybe things are changing.

.

6/26/14

Google Removing Author Photos -- Don't Panic Over Your Google Authorship! Mark Traphagen Explains Why.

Mark Traphagen has written an excellent post on Google Plus regarding the breaking news that Google will no longer be showing Author Photos in Google Search Results.  

Mark Traphagen Explains All About No More Google Author Photos

It's worth reading his entire post on G+ (hint, go do this, especially the Addendum) -- especially since he keeps updating it as he learns more -- but here's his take on things:
The End of Authorship? Hells No 
That's how I think the decision process went down at Google. I think they understood the value of the author photos, but at the end of the day, whatever that value was, it was not greater than the value they'd gain by uncluttering their search pages. Google Authorship continues. Qualifying authors will still get a byline on search results, so Google hasn't abandoned it. 
Besides, the bigger project here for Google I think is not author photos in search but the much ballyhooed but so far elusive "author rank," the ability to confidently determine who the content creators are in any given topic whom most people trust, and boost their content when appropriate. At SMX Advanced this month +Matt Cutts indicated that was still a priority, but was also still a long way off in being accomplished. 
This is a long haul project folks. Don't head for the lifeboats every time Google makes a change.

Google Authorship Isn't Going Away: You Still Get Your Byline

Google wants to provide its customers with the best content responsive to customer searches, and Google Authorship helps Google to accomplish this goal.  Traphagen explains its this in more detail, and includes supporting links for anyone really interested in learning more (or who is really panicking right now).

Those SEO hijinks, to find a magic wand to get content appearing above the fold on the first page of search results?  They're being successfully culled by Google.  Quality content is key; just keep providing it and don't worry about not having your smiling face next to the search result.

Still worried?  Go read more at Moz.com.


6/23/14

Evernote Is Fabulous Must-Have Software That Just Keeps Getting Better

Evernote is fabulous, and it seems that every week I find new things to love about this software program.  Granted, I've upgraded to the paid version (Premium) but there's still a wonderful amount of help that Evernote's basic, free version gives to anyone working with a keyboard.

This week, for example, I began right-clicking on the little green elephant head in my desktop toolbar and choosing "clip screenshot" and then flipping into Evernote to email that screenshot to clients.  Such a time saver - plus for many people, the visual (screenshot) seems to work better as an educational tool than a lengthy email message.  Go figure.

Love this new find.  It's a great, fast way to send them examples of how their stuff is appearing in Google Everything Search (top spots above the fold in multi-million search results); to send them breaking news stories for discussion in their blogs (lots happening in law these days, e.g., the ABA is okay with social media research on jury panels); and much more.

This is just one teensy example of all the cool tricks that Evernote contains, and how it is fun to discover them as you continue to delve into Evernote's depths.

You really should check Evernote out.  I think you may grow to love it, too.  

Here's a short, well-reviewed video by Anson Alexander that gives you a nice overview.


5/13/14

Removing EBooks from Amazon: It’s Not That Easy

Here’s something of interest to anyone that is self-publishing e-books out there.

Recently, one of my clients decided to take down an e-book we had worked on together a few years ago and published on Amazon.com. The e-book was specific to an area of the law that I won’t rabbit trail here; suffice to say that things had changed in federal law and what was being shared online was out of date.

My client is shown as the sole author. I worked with her on editing, fact-checking, cite checks, etc., along with getting a nice cover, moving the content from Word to the Kindle format, and getting the final e-book listed on Amazon.com.

She didn’t care about other sites; her goal was to share this stuff with non-lawyers who needed an overview and Amazon served that purpose. ("Hey, client, great question.  I've published a short e-book with that answer and a lot more that may be helpful to you.  Why not pick that up and read it -- it's faster for both of us and lots cheaper than my hourly rate?")

 This worked well for everyone for a long time. Then the law changed and the book, as written, wouldn’t be helping anyone any more.

Makes sense that she wanted to remove the e-book from Amazon and get it off the shelf, right?

Here’s where I enter the story. Seems that my savvy, smart, sophisticated attorney-client wasn’t finding a way to get the darn thing offline. Nope, it’s not that easy.

First off, you have to enter the author section of Amazon (authorcentral) to work on your stuff. Going to basic Amazon.com or looking at your official author page from your e-book's page won’t get you there.

So, you enter the special world of authorcentral and guess what? You still cannot simply take the book off the shelf.


Surprise, surprise. At least we were both surprised.

What happens next is that Amazon asks why you want to remove the book from the site. You must give Amazon a reason to remove the book from its sales catalog. And after you explain why, you get a message where Amazon replies that someone will get back to you on it.

Now, my client had an obvious reason, who could argue with not selling a law book that had old law in it?  Turnaround was short: the book was offline within 48 hours.

Thing is, what I’m wondering … what about if you have no good reason except you’ve changed your mind? You just don’t want to sell that e-book any longer because, well, you don’t feel like it? Or the cover is ugly? 

Or it’s a fiction piece and your cousin just now figured out that the blithering idiot in chapter three is based on him, and you’d rather not have the ebook available for reading during the family reunion next month?

Well, apparently, that’s not necessarily your call. It’s Amazon’s.


Now, I realize that Amazon is competing with other sites for e-book dollars and that Amazon may be worried that authors will be trading around e-books like baseball cards, trying to place their work in the spot where it may reap the biggest revenue return for them. (There’s even a suggestion in the Amazon response about not republishing on another site within 30 days.)  If this is all to avoid some kind of musical chairs marketing strategy, then I get it.

Still, I found it interesting that an author cannot take down their own work whenever they choose to do so.

And I wonder if there are scenarios where that turnaround might be harmful to someone, where they need to remove something immediately and are damaged by the delay.

Thought I’d share.